Dec. 16, 2013 08:33 UTC

Nobel Laureate Zinkernagel Delivers Keynote Speech at NCKU

TAINAN, Taiwan--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) hosted the 2013 International Symposium on Infectious Disease and Signal Transduction together with the 2013 Taiwan-Japan Joint Symposium on Cell Signaling and Gene Regulation, November 16, attracting a crowd of approximately 300.

A total of 19 experts from different countries including Switzerland, Japan, Canada and the USA were invited to give a talk.

NCKU President Hwung-Hweng Hwung said that the symposium was one of the highlights of the series of events that celebrated NCKU’s 82nd anniversary.

The event gathered together distinguished researchers from all over the world, to present their recent findings on research into virus, bacteria, and cancer.

The highlight of the event was undoubtedly the speech given by Nobel Laureate Rolf Zinkernagel, from the University of Zurich.

The Swiss-born academic was awarded the high honor due to his discovery of how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells, together with Peter Doherty of Australia, and he was here to deliver – in his own words – his “own bias of how immunity works, using viruses as teachers.”

According to Zinkernagel, he tried to challenge textbook knowledge, and avoided using terms such as ‘specificity’ and ‘immunological memory’ as, from a medical point of view, they are not only nebulous, but also ambiguous, failing to accurately reflect the mechanisms of how viruses work.

Instead, he tried to turn these immunological terms to protection-based ones, such as ‘serotype’ and ‘immunological protection’.

One of the key points of Zinkernagel’s presentation was that immunological memory does not equal to protection. Immunological memory, he said, is provided by a “pre-existing titer that fits with specific conditions”, also known as antibody concentration.

However, they merely provide protection for a certain amount of time, as they gradually diminish in concentration. Usually, protection lasts up to 20-25 years, after which, we begin to experience immunity problems.

According to Zinkernagel, this was also an example of natural selection, as the “immune system protects from infection during the period of key evolution.”

When asked what he wished to achieve in delivering this keynote speech, Zinkernagel responded that he wished to emphasize to everyone the distinction between immunological memory and protection, stressing that “you need periodical re-exposure throughout life that trains the immune system to keep up high enough antibody concentrations for protection”.


NCKU News Center
Sonia Chuang, +886-6-275-7575 ext. 50042

Source: National Cheng Kung University